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Whitechapel S02E02; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

WHITECHAPEL 2

Originally aired in the U.K. on 18 October 2010
Written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip
Directed by David Evans

Starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, and Steve Pemberton

My rating: ★★★ stars

Episode shows improvement, as the detectives focus in on the bad guys.

Unlike the first season, which faltered in the middle episode, this season gets stronger. The second season’s first episode floundered with too many characters, too many theories, and a complete lack of direction. This episode focuses, finally, on the actual copycats of the Krays and, in doing so, provides a sense of direction for the investigation and the season.

Surprisingly, noted “homosexual and misogynist” Ronnie Kray turns out to have fathered twin boys (via artificial insemination), and they’ve dedicated their lives to carrying on their father’s legacy of rampant violence and crime. Craig Parkinson admirably plays both Jimmy and Johnny Kray, and, if he doesn’t give the most charismatic of performances as the villains, he does a great job of playing two distinct characters simultaneously, the insane Jimmy and the seemingly more rational Johnny. The shots of the two twins together are seamless. And the interaction between the twins that Parkinson portrays is amazing to behold when I consider that the other twin was added in with special effects later. (In the 1990 movie The Krays, the real Kray twins are played by non-twin brothers Gary and Martin Kemp, of the band Spandau Ballet.)

In addition to the main villains of the season, this episode also introduces the emotional subplot. DI Chandler tasks Edward Buchan with investigating the disappearance of DS Miles’s father, who was a minor player in the elder Krays’ organization. This side investigation provides a purpose for Buchan to be involved this season. Buchan quickly learns that Miles’s father was killed on the say-so of Ronnie Kray, but the key discovery Buchan makes isn’t revealed until the next episode.

This episode also makes significant strides in fleshing out the main character, DI Chandler. Until now, except for his career ambitions and meticulous nature, we don’t know much about him on a personal level. Here, we see that he suffers from OCD, the symptoms of which get worse as Chandler comes under more stress. He nearly misses the climactic ambush in the pub because he can’t stop turning on and off the light switch in his office. The impairment is clearly distressing to him, and it’s nice to see the disorder, for once, not played for laughs.

The pub sequence is suitably exciting in terms of action, and the episode earns this climax by effectively leading up to it. What’s good about it is that it provides a nice reversal on which to end the episode and lead to the next one. Chandler seemed to have been making inroads in getting Johnny Kray to turn against his insane brother and, thus, to bring down their organization. However, when Chandler and Miles are supposed to meet with Johnny to make an arrangement, the brothers ambush them, looking indistinguishable, a single violent unit.

The episode’s most effective sequence comes in the middle when the organization of Jimmy and Johnny Kray simultaneously threatens everyone on Chandler’s team. Even though no one is killed, the sequence sets up a sense of fatal menace. The new Kray twins have let the heroes know that they are alive only because Jimmy and Johnny don’t want them dead yet, and that they can be killed at any time—Jimmy or Johnny just has to say the word. The viewers also get a sense of the breadth of the Krays’ organization.

There is one big problem with the episode and that is the issue of the mole in the Whitechapel station. Chandler and Miles figure out that someone high up in the investigation is working for the Krays. They quickly jump to the conclusion that it’s young DC Kent, who had been seriously injured by the Kray organization in the previous episode. Chandler and Miles figure that he became a traitor out of fear. It’s a wild supposition, and the evidence of Kent’s guilt is flimsy at best. Their hasty distrust of Kent is unwarranted and out-of-character for the lead detectives. It would make more sense for them to suspect the new guy, Mansell. At least, they don’t have an established relationship with him. The one saving grace of this subplot is a moving scene of Kent crying in the parking lot after being informed of their suspicions. Viewers of the first season will remember that Kent is known for going down to the parking lot to cry. It’s a nice bit of character continuity.

This episode works because of its narrower scope than that of the first episode. However, that narrowness creates a problem leading into the final episode. The plot threads involving Cazanove, Dukes, and Cheshire are barely touched on. Cazanove appears in one brief scene. Dukes doesn’t appear at all. Cheshire, enigmatically, helps Chandler out in the middle of the episode and takes credit for the fact that the Krays haven’t killed him yet. But nothing is learned or examined about these figures going into the final episode of the season. This season has enough story for eight episodes, but, unfortunately, there are only three.

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